Advice Outdoors

A Beginner’s Guide to Wilderness Hiking

A Beginner’s Guide to Wilderness Hiking

There’s something about hiking in the wilderness. Maybe it’s the peace and quiet, solitude, or the fact you can hear your own thoughts for once. Perhaps it’s the sound of the wind in the trees, the crunch of leaves or snow underfoot, and the wind in your hair. 

Trust me, if you haven’t yet embarked on a wilderness adventure, now is the time. 

I suggest you start small ⁠— don’t take on anything with too much risk. No one wants to see you on the news missing in the middle of nowhere. A wilderness adventure can be something as small as a walk in the woods, or as big as a multi-day hike overseas carrying your own kit and camping equipment. 

Regardless, here is my beginner’s guide to wilderness hiking!

Know Where You Are Going

Navigation is extremely important for any wilderness hike but doesn’t have to be complicated. Plan your route carefully and pick a well-known, busy trail if it’s your first time. 

Take a map and compass and make sure you know how to read them, especially if you are heading into the mountains. I completed a beginner’s course in navigation when I started solo hiking and it definitely gave me more confidence.

Once you know where you are going, tell someone. Make sure people know where you are heading and what time you expect to be back.

Carry The Essential Equipment

Ensure you have plenty of water with you and some extra snacks in case the adventure takes longer than you expected. You could even take a water filter to collect water from a lake or stream in emergencies and make it safe to drink.

A Beginner’s Guide to Wilderness Hiking

If you’re going out on your own anywhere make sure you have means of communication. Take a power bank on your phone so that you can recharge in an emergency or if you get lost. 

Always carry a head torch ⁠— these are a lifesaver. The last thing you want to be doing is stumbling around in the dark, unable to see anything. 

Dress Appropriately & Check The Weather

This is so important. Many people have set off on a hike on a warm summer’s day and ended up in trouble. The weather changes, the wind and rain rolls in and they get wet and cold. Even when the sun in shining bright, I always carry extra warm layers and waterproofs in my backpack. This is even more important in the mountains when the weather can be unpredictable and varied. Always check the forecast. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Wilderness Hiking

Know How To Light A Fire

This doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. True, there are lots of weird and wonderful or technical ways of lighting fires. However, you simply need to be able to make a fire and stay warm in an emergency. 

The simplest way for a beginner to make a fire is with something familiar such as a lighter or matches, so get in the habit of carrying this and some tinder such as cotton wool and vaseline in a waterproof bag. This, combined with some small twigs and sticks will get you started. Of course, you have to think about your environment before lighting a fire, but it’s an important skill to have on a wilderness adventure. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Wilderness Hiking

Be Ready For Anything

This is the true essence of an adventure, especially in the wilderness. You may have you day mapped out to its finest detail, but then the weather changes, or there is a flood, or a trail is closed. Be ready to adapt and improvise but also, be ready to call it a day if you have to. 

Also, try not to have too many expectations. I remember one very disappointing hike in the Canadian Rockies, when we failed to reach the summit due to avalanche risk. I was so upset and angry because I had my heart set on the summit. I learned a lesson that day. Just be ready for an adventure ⁠— whatever that may look like. 

I hope you enjoyed this beginner’s guide to wilderness hiking and the simple tips help you to get out there and enjoy your own wilderness adventures! If you’d like to follow mine, please do so here.

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